Depression can be an isolating experience for many people, and the difficulties talking about these experiences can also make seeking support and treatment even harder.
If you haven’t experienced depression first hand, noticing changes in your loved one’s mental health and behaviours and how to offer support can be difficult. Keep in mind that it’s important to also look after yourself when supporting your loved one – because you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Read on for some insights and suggestions on how to support your loved one.
1. Sometimes we don’t know why we feel depressed
“...it’s not about “getting over it” but rather, getting through it.”
More often than not, depression is a whole lot deeper than life’s problems – and in truth, there may not be any specific reason or it may stem from a combination of different causes.
It is helpful to support your loved one with a "working though it", rather than a "getting over it" perspective.
2. Small gestures can go a long way
“There are a number of small, manageable things you can do to help those with depression feel less alone…”
While the little things may not be sufficient in overcoming depression, support and kindness from loved ones can be a source of light in and amongst the darkness. There are a number of small, practical things that friends and family can do to help, such as preparing a home cooked meal, joining in on everyday activities, or simply providing company or a listening ear.
3. Feeling like a burden on our friends and family
“...by reassuring loved ones that they are not a burden, the experience is a lot less daunting.”
Feeling alienated is a big part of depression, and it can make people feel like an inconvenience to friends and family – or that by talking about it, it’s only bringing them down too. But opening up about mental illness is an essential step towards recovery – so by reassuring loved ones that they are not a burden, the experience will feel a lot less daunting.
4. Even getting out of bed feels impossible
“...it can take a great deal of courage and inner strength.”
Everyday tasks like going to work, or even having a conversation can be exhausting – and some days are better or worse than others. From the outside it may be difficult to understand the effort needed for everyday tasks, but depression can infiltrate almost every aspect of a person’s life, including motivation levels and the emotional capacity to socialise. While getting out and about or answering a text may seem unremarkable for some, for others it can take a great deal of courage and inner strength. But don’t give up, just be patient.
5. Tough love is not the answer
“...because knowledge of other people’s anguish doesn’t make it disappear.”
It’s likely that someone with depression is already beating themselves up over this – so we need to take the opposite approach. Ask yourself, how would you treat someone with a physical illness? The same level of patience and support should apply to how you treat a loved one experiencing depression. It also doesn’t matter whether or not things “could be worse” – because knowledge of other people’s anguish doesn’t make it disappear. But with patience and understanding, together with appropriate professional treatment, you can help your loved one to recover.
6. Just hearing people out can make them feel less alone
“...don’t put too much pressure on them through this difficult time…”
Advice isn’t what someone experiencing depression needs the most – it’s understanding. Listening to their pain makes them feel supported without the burden of taking on too much. Encouragement is good, just don’t put too much pressure on them through this difficult time, because patience is a pivotal part of the recovery process. Remember, depression is a constant and exhausting battle, which is why frustration can sometimes be directed towards those closest – but just know that they do appreciate your kind words and that you’re trying to help.
Professional help is just a call away
If you’re coming to terms with depression or someone you know is struggling with depression, we’re here to listen. You can reach out to our Cloud Clinic to book yourself or your loved one a telehealth session with our trained clinicians who are equipped with the knowledge and experience to treat clinical depression, depressive disorders and related conditions.